CHESTER - A new hardcover book chronicling the 50-year history of Bonny Lea Farm captures the legacy of the Windsor Road landmark and tells a compelling story about the people touched by its existence, says a member of the local family credited for creating the space five decades ago.
"This book means history," said Bonita Church, whose relatives sold the Collicutt Road property to set the stage for Bonny Lea Farm's genesis. "The stories are very heart warming and truthful," said Church, who also remains active with the organization.
In recent weeks, Bonny Lea Farm, a locally renowned service provider for adults with special needs, launched "We All Belong Here", written by Catherine Collins, a member of the organization's community service board and an award-winning author.
The work involved sifting through the organization's archives, navigating media clippings, among other steps, Collins told those gathered at The Shop, a Central Street coffee and gift shop, a social enterprise in Chester led by Bonny Lea Farm, where the text was publicly introduced.
The book, around 70 pages, contains notes from the farm's executive director and president, along with five chapters involving profiles of Church, farm resident Rose Deveau, a glance at volunteers and families and the evolution of its work programs and ends with a look to the future.
"I hope to stay with Bonny Lea a long, long time," Deveau told the gathering.
While "it's been a great ride," she said, Deveau admitted, with a laugh, "when I came here I was no calm kitty, I can tell you that."
"There are times I get annoyed with the farm (but) you get back up and everybody does it with a smile," she added.
Supporters of and officials with Bonny Lea Farm have plenty to smile about these days with the ongoing construction of a $4.5 million, 313 square metre small options home, which, when finished, will be equipped with specialized mobility supports, built-in lifts and the capacity to support tenants with less stringent medical needs.
The building, which is located on its Collicutt Road site near Chester, will includes offices, meeting rooms, training space and residents will have access to private rooms and bathrooms. The new home will be operated by the province.
As part of its current residential service, Bonny Lea Farm houses 36 people in nine residences; four group homes and small options homes, plus one apartment. At least a half-dozen other clients arrive daily to access the farm's programs. It also provides vocational and therapeutic supports for adults with intellectual disabilities.
There are capacity issues for accommodating those requiring an increased level of medical care. It means residents have to leave and likely go to long-term care. The farm's aging population served as part of a housing and individual needs conversation and led to the development of establishing a new barrier-free multi-storey home. A majority of its three dozen residents are over the age of 50.
Groundbreaking on the project took place in June 2023. The anticipated completion date is June of this year.
Also, the farm is building a second four-bedroom home along Peterson Drive in Chester on a 1,300 square metre property. This home will also be barrier-free and able to accommodate a higher level of support for its residents.
The registered charity for Bonny Lea Farm, the South Shore Community Service Association, holds ownership of the Peterson Drive property in the Village of Chester. The land purchase cost was $99,000. Construction and operating expenses will be the province's responsibility. The site is within walking distance of schools, a grocery store and other amenities.
To understand more about the organization or to learn about how to obtain the book, go to https://bonnyleafarm.ca.